NL Starting Pitchers: Overvalued and Undervalued

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Yesterday, I covered the AL’s overvalued and undervalued pitchers according to ADP. Today it's time to tackle the National League starters - players that I think can be SP draft values or busts based on their current draft day prices.

To switch things up, in this piece we will start with the overvalued pitchers. This isn't a full-blown indictment on these players, but a recommendation not to overpay or pull the trigger too early. Likewise, my undervalued players aren't must-own, but could be good values depending on the way your draft plays out.

Note: ADP ranks are taken from NFBC data.

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Overvalued NL Starting Pitchers

Jake Arietta, Chicago Cubs

ADP: 34, SP7
MY RANK: 73, SP15

Let's start by comparing Arrieta’s award-winning 2015 with last year's output:

ERA FIP Xfip K/9 BB/9 AVG FA GB% WHIP
2015 1.77 2.35 2.61 9.28 1.89 94.4 56.2 0.86
2016 3.10 3.52 3.68 8.67 3.47 93.6 52.6 1.08

 

Arietta was much worse in 2016 than 2015. He was even worse in the second half of 2016 (3.69 ERA, 7.48K/9, 3.58 BB/9, 1.07 WHIP) than the first half (2.68ERA, 9.52K/9, 3.38 BB/9, 1.09WHIP). Did all the innings he logged in 2015 finally catch up to him and start a trend in the wrong direction? Or is he due for a bounceback? My guess is his 2017 is more like 2016 than 2015, but not as bad as his second half. Those stats simply are not elite enough to be a third-round pick, or to be picked ahead of guys such as Darvish, Verlander, Strasburg, DeGrom and Lester.

 

Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks

ADP: 99, SP21
MY RANK: 148,  SP33

Greinke is an interesting case. Even before last year, the hype exceeded the game a bit. His K-rates were 8.48, 7.50, 9.21 and 8.08 in 2011-2015. He had sterling ERAs in 2013-2015, but his FIP and xFIP suggest he may have been lucky. Whereas some pitchers are not lucky but rather consistently outperform their peripherals, Greinke was not that type of pitcher; from 2010-2012, he had ERAs well over his FIP and xFIP. Thus, despite his 2013-2015 and especially his “breakout” 2015 (1.66 ERA, 0.84 WHIP), Greinke was likely more of a 3.00 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 8K/9 pitcher when luck was removed. Then in 2016, things got much worse. He battled injuries and posted a 4.37 ERA, 7.6K/9, and 1.27 WHIP. Now, 2017 is off to a bad start as he is showing decreased velocity this spring. The result is a player with both a questionable floor and ceiling, which is precisely the type I avoid.

 

Tanner Roark, Washington Nationals

ADP: 142, SP 33
MY RANK: 216, SP53

Roark is exactly the type of middle of the road pitcher that I don’t draft. His career high in K/9 is 7.37, which is unsurprising given that he does not have double digit swinging strike percentages. His WHIP the last three years has been 1.17, 1.31, and 1.09. In his two “breakout” seasons, he had FIPs of 3.47 and 3.79, with xFIPs of 3.84 and 4.17. I just do not see the upside. I would rather get this production from streaming, and buy a hitter or reliever at this slot, and then load up on upside pitchers at the end.

 

Matt Harvey, New York Mets

ADP: 145, SP34
MY RANK: 218, SP55

When Harvey was on our radars (get it?), he was sitting at 95 and touching 100. Last year, he fell to sitting at 94.4 and hitting 98, posting a 4.86 ERA, 7.38K/9, and a 1.47 WHIP before an injury ended his season. This spring, while reportedly healthy, he has only touched 94. It’s possible his shoulder and arm will get stronger as the spring progresses and that he becomes who we thought he was (right Denny Green?). But it is also possible that he is a complete dud like last year; his velocity this year certainly suggests that. Thus, Harvey has a low floor, and I do not like to pay for those types in the middle of the draft; I prefer them as late round lottery tickets. Therefore, I will avoid Harvey unless he falls to the last few rounds.

 

Undervalued NL Starting Pitchers

Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

ADP: 4, SP1
MY RANK: 3, SP1

It may not seem like a big undervaluation given that he is a top-ten pick in every draft. However, I have Kershaw awfully close to my top two in auction drafts, and he is being drafted between fourth and fifth on average. Because I have very few top pitchers valued higher than their ADP, I think Kershaw is a great relative value. Yes, he did battle an injury last year, but check out my piece contemplating whether he should be the top pick overall for a fuller argument on his value. If you can snag him at the third pick or later, do so.

 

Rich Hill, Los Angeles Dodgers

ADP: 127, SP30
MY RANK: 85, SP17

and

Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers

ADP: 167, SP41
MY RANK: 120, SP22

While on the subject of Dodgers’ lefties, these two are also being undervalued. Hill could easily be your third high-end pitcher, whereas Urias could be a risky grab for that same role, similar to Lance McCullers in yesterday’s piece. The knocks on Hill are that he is old, injury-prone, only recently broke out, and has not pitched many innings. My counterargument is that without these issues, he would be ranked much higher. In his four starts in 2015, he had a 1.55 ERA, 11.2K/9, and a 0.66 WHIP. Last year, in 110.1 innings, he posted a 2.12 ERA, 10.5K/9, and a 1.00 WHIP. Factor in the playoffs and minors, and he threw 126.1 innings. If healthy, 180 innings is not out of the question. With his rate stats, he is well worth the buy.

Urias is on the other end of the age spectrum, at 20 years old. However, he likewise will be limited in innings. He threw 127.2 last year if you include the minors and playoffs, and around 170 seems reasonable; in fact, I will take the over. Despite the innings limit, look at what he did at 19 (yes, 19!) as a starter: 3.25 ERA (3.02FIP) and 10K/9. After the break, he posted the following line: 1.99 ERA (2.83 FIP) and 8.85K/9, while reducing his WHIP to 1.38. Urias also simply has the “it” factor, and I am banking on “it” showing in 2017 as he takes another step forward on his way to superstardom.

 

Joe Ross, Washington Nationals

ADP: 245, SP68
MY RANK: 152, SP36

Joe Ross is one of my favorite lottery tickets in the last few rounds. In his two years, he has been relatively successful: 3.52ERA (3.46FIP), 8.03K/9, 1.22 WHIP. He boasts an impressive 11.4% swinging strike rate. He battled injury last year, so one could expect another step forward in a healthy 2017. With an improved lineup behind him and a clear spot in the rotation, he could be a late round steal.

 

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